The best mid-size sedan almost no one even considered in 2013 was the all-wheel-drive Subaru Legacy sedan.
But that Legacy is being replaced this summer by an all-new one that hits the right notes – it's practical, safe and dependable.
Indeed, Consumer Reports ranks the Legacy No. 1 for reliability among mid-size cars. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety named it a Top Safety Pick +. ALG says Subaru is No. 2 among mainstream brands for resale, and the Legacy-based Outback wagon won its class.
So why did Ford's Fusion outsell the Legacy 10:1 last year (20,145 to 2,022), with the Legacy No. 17 in a field of 24, according to DesRosiers Automotive Reports? Subaru vice-president Ted Lalka says that consumers are surprised to hear that Subaru even makes an intermediate sedan.
The Legacy has been the victim of dull styling and mediocre marketing. It's that simple. Time to press the reset button, says Lalka. The message: the Legacy is priced to compete with the Fusions of the world, but with all-wheel drive at no fuel-economy penalty.
The 2015 Legacy is no stripper. The front-drive base Fusion starts at $22,499. The four-cylinder Legacy is about as fuel efficient as the starter Fusion and most other front-drive rivals.
And this new Legacy is nimble, thanks to the low centre of gravity of the "boxer" four-cylinder engine, standard AWD and clever chassis engineering. I'll attest to that, as will emergency handling tests by Consumer Reports. Only Kia's Optima is the Legacy's equal.
But styling? This Legacy has long overhangs front and rear, not a modern, wheels-to-the-corners look. This helps in crash tests, but dates the design. The long character line extending down the length of the car adds zest, though.
Inside, the seats are spectacularly comfortable with excellent back and neck support. The gauges could be bigger and sharper and easier to read, especially for middle-age buyers most likely to own this car. A touchscreen nicely manages infotainment, but sunlight glare almost completely obscures its readouts. The cabin is nicely finished. Alas, the styling seems the product of engineers not artists.
The Legacy is an excellent sedan with a good price. Subaru would like to double or even triple sales and with a little marketing muscle, that should be easy enough to achieve. It's that good.
2015 Subaru Legacy
Type: mid-size sedan
Base price: $23,495
Transmission/drive: CVT/all-wheel drive
Fuel economy: (litres/100 km): 8.4 city/6.1 highway; regular fuel
Alternatives: Nissan Altima, Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Volkswagen Passat, Chrysler 200, Ford Fusion, Chevrolet Malibu, Mazda6, Kia Optima, Hyundai Sonata.
You'll like this car if: You want a family sedan that can safely and joyously tackle all four seasons without much chance of breaking for the next 10 years.
Minus: Not a big minus, however. The big problem is the overhangs, front and rear. They are there for crash protection, but do not have the wheels-to-the-corners look of a modern sedan. Window openings seem smallish, too.
Plus: The seats are excellent, with lumbar and support and whiplash protection. Lots of space, too. .
Plus: You cannot buy a quicker, more balanced, more responsive mainstream mid-size sedan. This is the standard. The car entertains but is very stable and predictable.
Plus: I'd like to give the Legacy a "plus, plus," though the ratings don't allow it. A star in crash tests and loaded with more safety gear than it's possible to list here.
Minus: The Fusion and Accord are three key rivals with more trunk space.
Minus: The infotainment readout screen disappears in bright sunlight, though in fairness, when visible, it runs intuitively. The finely drawn gauges in the instrument cluster might be tough to read sans glasses if you are a middle-age driver.
The Legacy hits so many of the right notes if you are a sensible, practical mid-size car buyer. It needs to be high up on that person's shopping list.
The writer was a guest of the auto maker.
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